I used to see a red, retro- Ford Thunderbird in my neighborhood with the license plate, ‘Why Wait?’ It always triggered a reaction in me. ‘Why wait? Waiting is the way’ I said to myself. ‘Everyone must wait…on something…on someone’. We are waiting on dinner, to pass the course, a good job opening, to find Mr. Right or the ‘dream girl’, for test results, or for gratification. Who likes waiting?! Observed the late Henri Nouwen, ‘Waiting is a dry desert between where we are and where we want to be’.
Waiting for my mother to pick me up after baseball practice at Miller Park in Lynchburg was surely a dry desert. As the afternoon shadows deepened, the field was long abandoned. I was the last one left. Cell phones did not exit. I did not even have a dime to call on the pay phone. Bored, there was nothing to do. Vulnerable, I was alone. Fearful, I might get picked on by older boys. Had she forgotten me? What would I do? How could I get home?
Waiting…must we? Yes, waiting is the proactive way. Is there a good way to wait? How and why do we wait? In Psalm 27 King David urges us to wait and tells us how and why. ‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord’ he urges. Let me draw out several lessons from David’s moral encouragement to wait. Godly waiting is (1) staying in place unrealized; (2) staying in place being courageous; and (3) staying in place because God is the One coming to deliver you.
In Psalm 27, David finds himself in an anxious predicament. It might have been life threatening. You might feel yourself in a life threatening situation. Adversaries bring false accusations against David and ‘breathe out violence’. His adversaries are trying to ruin his reputation and destroy him. Pretty serious business. There is no immediate relief in sight. He tells himself to ‘wait’. Waiting is the way. Waiting is what the children of Israel did in the Sinai wilderness for forty years. Waiting on Samuel is what Saul was told to do. Waiting on the bridegroom to arrive is what the ten bridesmaids did. ‘To wait for the promise of the Father’ is what Jesus charged his disciples. Waiting is what we are doing for the second coming of Jesus Christ. On what else are you waiting?
For the people of God, to wait is ‘to stay in place in expectation’. The military general David tells himself to ‘wait for the Lord’. Stay where you are. Stay in what state you are. Stay there until God comes. Henri Nouwen observes, ‘Impatient people expect the real thing to happen somewhere else, and therefore they want to get away from the present situation and go elsewhere. For them, the moment is empty.’ This is a good description of how I have felt. You too? Patient people dare to stay where they are: waiting. Waiting is the way.
What makes waiting such a challenge is how we must wait. We must remain temporarily neglected and unrealized. David is in this unrelieved state in Psalm 27. He is finding no defense from adversaries lobbing grenades at will at him. While waiting on their Messiah Israel was subject to hundreds of years of empires’ domination. Jesus is a prime example of waiting seemingly neglected. Jesus, appearing deserted and undone on the cross, cries out, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
Does waiting neglected and unrealized mean one must wait in a nervous state, insecure and anxious? No. King David urges emphatically how we are to wait, ‘Be strong and let your heart take courage’. Inherent in waiting is a need for strength and courage. Courage is waiting in place, withstanding the present danger. One of Scripture’s best pictures of courage is Moses and the children of Israel backed up against the Red Sea. Trying to escape Egypt, their backside is hard against the boundary of the Red Sea. Pressing down upon them from the front side is the driving, Egyptian army with its charioteers. Martin Luther describes them as a caged parrot. God’s word to Moses is, ‘Fear not and stand firm’. Wait. Be strong. Hold your ground looking the approaching danger square in the face. ‘Courage’ said John Wayne, ‘is being scared to death but saddling up anyway’. God echoes the same word to Joshua as Joshua readies himself to confront the great walled city of Jericho, ‘Be strong and of good courage’. Likewise, Jesus commands his disciples, ‘Do not let your heart be troubled’.
The English have a ‘bitter’, a beer, called ‘Courage’. Courage’s logo is a rooster with the slogan, ‘Take Courage’. In almost every film I have ever seen courage is pouring yourself a drink when facing an uncomfortable situation. A shot of ‘Courage’ is no courage. In fact, it is not waiting at all! How then does one who has no courage ‘take courage’!? Simply telling me to take courage when I have no courage makes me even more nervous! I would not be anxious if I knew how to not be anxious!
How can David’s exhortation ‘Be strong and take courage’ be effectual to scared people like us? The strength to wait and the reason we wait derives from the knowledge of Him for whom we wait: we ‘wait for the LORD’. Only in the knowledge that we ‘wait for the LORD’ can we have confidence. Only for this reason can we wait unrealized. Only for this reason does the courage come to withstand present danger. Staying in place is predicated upon waiting for God. In waiting for God, we are waiting for the One David describes in Psalm 27 as ‘my light and my salvation’ and ‘the stronghold of my life’. We wait in faith, confident that ‘my light’, ‘my salvation’, and ‘my stronghold’ will deliver us. ‘He will hide me in his shelter’ and like a Middle Eastern tribal chief ‘will conceal me under the cover of his tent’. Even though an army besieges us, surely we are confident we shall see ‘God’s goodness in the land of the living’.
Batman assesses the adversaries amassing against him. He says to Robin, ‘There are six of them against…odds slightly in our favor.’ How do we wait? With courage. Why do we wait? Because of Him for whom we wait: we wait for the Lord, ‘my light and my salvation’. With the Lord the odds are always in our favor!
‘Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord.’